Twenty-one per cent of Bulgarians are below the country’s poverty line – a statistic that translates into a reality of being unable to put meat on the table regularly, to come up with the cash to meet unexpected expenses, to say nothing of the impossibility of an annual holiday.
The Bulgarians hardest-hit by poverty are elderly people living alone, single parents with children and households with three or more children.
Regarding Bulgarian children, the figures are especially worrying. In 2013, more than 28 per cent of children – defined as those aged up to 17 – in Bulgaria were at risk of poverty.
In 2013, the percentage of children with what statisticians call “material deprivation”, a term that means that they lack one or more items from a list of 11, was 70.2 per cent.
Almost half of children could not afford a meal including meat, chicken or fish at least once a day, and fresh fruit and vegetables once a day.
Again, close to half of the children could not afford books suitable for their age.
More than half could not afford at least two pairs of shoes suitable to the season. Two out of five had no assurance of being able to buy new clothes.
Just more than 45 per cent of children could not afford to invite friends over “to play and eat from time to time” in the wording of the question in the survey.
According to the National Statistical Institute (NSI) survey, released on December 15, the highest risk of poverty was in just more than 68 per cent of households with three or more children. This proportion, in 2013, was 7.1 percentage points higher than in 2012.
The NSI said that in 2013, the average monthly poverty line for Bulgaria was 285.92 leva (just more than 146 euro) a person.
The 21 per cent of the population below that povery line represents a flesh-and-blood figure of 1 527 500 people.
The 2013 figures do represent some changes and slight improvements compared to 2012.
The poverty line in 2013 was 2.2 per cent higher than in 2012 and, according to the NSI, the proportion of the population defined as poor decreased by 2.2 percentage points.
Hardly surprisingly, the proportion of the poor was highest among the unemployed (47.6 per cent) and the risk of poverty for unemployed men was 0.2 percentage points higher than for unemployed women.
In 2013, the rate of poverty among Bulgarians with jobs dropped, 7.2 per cent lower than in 2012.
The percentage of part-time employed defined as poor was 20.9 per cent, while the share of full-time employees defined as poor was 6.4 per cent.
The NSI survey found that 66.3 per cent of households cannot afford a holiday away from home.
A similar figure cannot afford unexpected essential expenses, such as urgent repairs to their home or car, replacing a washing machine or refrigerator, or sudden illness.
Almost half said that they could not afford to heat their homes properly.
Thirty-six per cent said that they had had problems in paying bills, running into arrears with mortgage repayments, rent, utility bills for electricity, water and heating, or with hire-purchase instalments or other loan repayments.
(Photo: (c) Clive Leviev-Sawyer)